This recipe was made and written by my boyfriend- As you may have guessed from the nickname-“Bear”. I am from Eastern Europe. So my food pallet has been formed by all the flavours and dishes that are cooked there.
Ukraine and Western Russia can be very cold. In the olden days of manual labour, people needed loads of calories to stay warm and active. Hence the recipe books were full of energy dense foods such as pies,dumplings, full fat roasted meats and preserved vegetables. At the same time, summer in Ukraine can be extremely hot (temperatures of +30 in the shade with no wind for weeks is not uncommon) and people want something much lighter and freshly made. And this is where Borsch comes in!
Borsch is the Alpha and Omega of Ukrainian peasant food. It is a complicated and delicious tomato and vegetable soup that everyone has their own recipe for. The must have ingredients are onions,garlic, tomatoes, cabbage, beetroot and Carrots. Optional ingredients include: meat(usually pork or beef), beans and mushrooms. Borsch is not only a culinary phenomenon, it is also apart of Russian/Ukrainian culture and to this day, a woman is expected to be making it on regular basis for her husband and family.
This is my take on this dish, mostly inspired by my Mum. She makes a vegetarian version. I suspect that this is much closer to the version that people ate every day, since meat was mostly eaten on holidays in Tsarist Russia. I prefer to make it a little richer and with beef.
- 2 Large White Onions
- 3 Large Carrots
- 4 Cloves of Garlic
- 3 Tomatoes
- 1 Sweet Pepper
- 500g of Diced Beef
- 1x 400g Can of Chopped Tomatoes
- 300-400g of White Cabbage
- 300g of Baby Potatoes
- 250g of Mushrooms
- 2 lites of beef stock(I used stock cubes)
- 50g Fresh Parsley and Dill
- 500g of boiled beetroot
- Finely chop the onions and garlic cloves
- Peel and grate the carrots.
- Fry the carrots and onions together. Add salt and pepper. Once done, set aside and put into a separate bowl.
- While the onions are frying, chop the baby potatoes and boil them in 2 litres of beef stock.
- Chop the fresh tomatoes and pepper.
- Put more oil on the frying pan and brown the meat,along with the fresh tomatoes. Feel free to season it with salt,pepper and paprika.
- Add the mushrooms to the pan and fry the mix until everything is cooked.
- Add the onions and carrots from earlier to the boiling potatoes.
- Then add a can of chopped tomatoes and two tablespoons of tomato purée to the pot. Then immediately add a tablespoon of vinegar to the tomatoes before stirring them in. It will prevent the soup from turning brown.
- Finely chop the cabbage and add it to the boiling pot.
- The meat and mushrooms should be cooked by now, so add it to the pot and stir it in.
- Finally, chop the beetroot and add it to the pot. Add another tablespoon of vinegar to the pot, same as with the chopped tomatoes. It will allow the soup to keep its rich red-purple colour.
- Cut some parsley and dill and throw on top of the soup.
- Put the lid on the pot and turn the heat down to low. Let it simmer for about an hour to make sure that all the vegetables are cooked and soft.
When Borsch is ready, serve it with a dollop of sour cream and fresh bread. An authentic Ukrainian way to serve it would be with some garlic bread rolls, but I didn’t have the ingredients to make them. Perhaps next time…